Courtesy of David Seibold

Burro Schmidt Tunnel

Burro Schmidt Tunnel
See a wacky-weird 32-year effort to dig through a mountain—by hand

If there was ever a road to nowhere, this route through the heart of a remote mountain in the vast Mojave Desert might just be the most head-scratching route you’ll ever visit. The tunnel is a roughly 2,000-foot-long tube dug out of solid rock by miner Burro Schmidt; it starts at his still-standing cabin compound, then heads through Copper Mountain to emerge on the other side, on a remote ledge at an elevation of 4,000 feet. What’s even more bizarre is that Schmidt, who started the tunnel in 1902 and kept digging for more than three decades, scooped it all out by hand, with just a bit of help from a few well-placed explosives.

The site, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is about 40 miles north of the town of Mojave. Follow State Highway 14 northeast for 20 miles, then, at the fork, keep right on Redrock Randsburg Road. (Redrock Canyon State Park is on your left.) Continue 11 miles northeast to Mesquite Canyon Road (a dirt route best traveled via high-clearance 4WD), then left onto dirt EP15 for 2.7 miles to the half-mile spur road that leads to the fenced but visible Burro Schmidt Tunnel and homestead. “We don’t encourage people to go in the structures or the tunnel,” says BLM field manager Carl Symons, “but you can see his cabin and where he was trying to get through the mountain—no one knows why.” The BLM office in Ridgecrest offers informative flyers and can share details on road conditions and access; stop by or call (300 S. Ridgecrest Rd.; 760/384-5400).

Kodiak Greenwood

Discover the Deserts

The thwack of a golf club, the hum of the wind buffeting towering sand dunes, the splash of a dive into a perfect pool—the desert region is a sensory feast.

Following winter rains, springtime wildflowers paint the desert with colour.

Death Valley National Park holds the record for hottest temperature ever recorded (129°F/54°C in 1913), while the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park have giant boulders and alien-like yucca plants. At Anza-Borrego, California’s largest state park, discover amazing springtime wildflowers. The oasis-like Palm Springs region (2 hours east of L.A. and 3 hours northeast of San Diego) has golf resorts, midcentury modern architecture, and every spring, the epic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

SPECIAL FEATURE
Find beauty, wildlife, and solitude in three of America’s newest national preserves

You could call it a monumental achievement: In February 2016, three new national monuments were created, protecting a combined total of 1.8 million acres of California desert. The names of the...

Ann Marie Brown
In 1867, the U.S. Army established Fort Piute (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) along the Old Spanish Trail that crossed the Mojave Desert from the Colorado River to San Bernardino, California.
Janell Shirtcliff/Courtesy of Best Coast

Best Coast Celebrates Pappy & Harriet’s

The Los Angeles rock duo loves performing at this unique desert venue

Anyone who has ever attended a concert at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, or scarfed down a plate of its celebrated macaroni and cheese...

At 282 ft. below sea level, Badwater in Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in the contiguous United States.
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Spotlight: Greater Palm Springs

Hipster cool in the desert. Das Ledderhosen!

Fed by underground springs, the desert comes alive here, not only with signature palms, but also with a string of resort communities—Palm Desert,...

Lucas Himovitz

Luxury Resorts in the Desert

Relax at spoil-yourself spas under the desert sun

Pampering just comes with the territory in the California desert. Maybe in the old days, desert visitors had to pack in supplies and sleep on the...

Trip 3-4 days 10 stops

Route 66 - Mother Road

Legendary Highway, California Dream

Start your trip in this idyllic oceanfront city, bounded by a 3.5-mi/5.6-km-long beach, and feeling more like a weekend getaway spot than a city just a few minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Car-free options, including a shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport (8 miles/13 km south) make...

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

On your way to this park, you’ll pass through the little community of Borrego Springs. Stop in at the town’s visitor center to get driving maps to an astounding collection of enormous prehistoric animals—metal sculptures made by artist Ricardo Breceda—that dot the surrounding desert landscape....

Alex Farnum

Spotlight: Joshua Tree National Park

Rugged mountains, vibrant sunsets & uncountable stars

Boulders and buttresses, rugged mountains, gold mining ruins, desert plains dotted with the oddball trees—this is one weird place. Joshua Tree,...

This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough.
Mary Austin
Laura Flippen

Desert Shopping

From boutiques to bargains, vintage to boho-chic, you’ll find it here

In-the-know visitors make sure to come to the Palm Springs area with room in their suitcases. Bargain hunters make a beeline for the town of...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

Kodiak Greenwood

Golf & tennis

Swing clubs and racquets where the pros do in the Coachella Valley

With world-class golf courses set against dramatic desert landscapes and top-quality tennis courts beneath towering palms, two sports get classy...

Courtesy of Elvis Presley Estate

Mid-Century Modern Design

Swing into Sinatra cool in Palm Springs

Filled with distinctive post-World War II buildings designed by leading architects of the time, Palm Springs is America’s Mid-century Modern mecca...

The lowest golf course in the world is Furnace Creek in Death Valley, at 214 feet below sea level.
SPECIAL FEATURE
From edgy rock n’ roll to haute couture fashion, there’s a festival for you in the desert

For all of the desert’s natural splendour and outdoor destinations, creativity comes with the territory, too. Throughout the year, the region finds ways to celebrate art, design, music, and film...

Lucas Himovitz
SPECIAL FEATURE
Vast landscapes, spectacular desert vistas

Both vast and intimate, the California desert is a region that ranges from arid, barren expanses to oasis-like canyons with hidden waterfalls. Towering sand dunes rise above the desert floor,...

Alex Farnum
Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

Amboy Crater

Hike into a 6,000-year-old volcanic remnant

Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973 and located just off historic Route 66, Amboy Crater is an example of geology creating geometry—it’...

Fossil Falls
Greater Southwestern Exploration Company/Flickr

Fossil Falls

Rushing river, sculpted black lava

The truth is that the name Fossil Falls is a bit of a misnomer. After all, there are neither fossils nor a waterfall here. But a walk through...